Angie Hill, 44, lives in Margate with her partner Elaine and their daughter Emily and two foster children. After trying many diets, she decided to have gastric wrap keyhole surgery in Prague, where costs are cheaper than in the UK. The procedure folds and then stitches the stomach to make a tube, restricting the amount of food that can be eaten. Height: 5ft 7in. Total weight loss: 5st 4lb.
January 2013 17st 6lb, size 22-24
I first heard about this surgery in May 2012, when I attended a meeting at Secret Surgery, which arranges procedures overseas. My partner Elaine had a gastric bypass then went to Poland for a tummy tuck in 2010. A gastric wrap is less extreme than a bypass, gives good weight loss and there’s a lower risk of vomiting than with a gastric band.
The only question was how quickly I could save the money for the operation – it cost £4,640 for the surgery, flights and accommodation, plus £350 for Elaine to go with me. My operation is booked for 15 January in Prague and I began my pre-op liquid diet of light yoghurts and soups on New Year’s Day.
My weight dramatically increased when I came out as gay, aged 14. Since then, I’ve yo-yoed. I’m a comfort eater, plus my portion sizes are too big, I snack and I have a habit of eating in the evening. I’ve tried every diet going and asked my GP for support but nothing has worked. My blood pressure is high, I get breathless easily and my joints ache. I also find I get emotional and upset about my weight and I hate wearing frumpy clothes.
April 2013 13st 4lb, size 16-18
I’ve lost 4st 2lb and I’m looking forward to getting even smaller. The surgery was straightforward. I spent two nights in hospital and three in an apartment in Prague. I was on liquid food for two weeks, followed by two weeks of purées, two weeks of mashed food, then soft foods such as porridge and eggs. Now I’m on normal food, but much smaller portions as my stomach is the size of a banana. I’ll have muesli or porridge for breakfast, soup or cheese and crackers for lunch, then dinner on a tea plate – such as haddock with a creamy sauce and vegetables. If I eat even a teaspoon too much I feel sick. I feel so much more alive now – I can actually play with the kids when I take them to the park. My knee doesn’t lock if I kneel. I’ve just been on an all-inclusive holiday and didn’t put on the half stone I usually would.
July 2013 12st 8lb, size 14-16
I only lost 3lb in May and 3lb in June so I’ve had to look at what I’m eating. I need to cut down on carbs and choose chicken and salad instead of a roast dinner. I do get very tired sometimes and I’ve had some hair loss, both of which are problems with gastric surgery. The follow-up to my surgery has been great. I log on to the Secret Surgery forum and I attend a monthly support meeting in Rochester, an hour’s drive away. I can also see my GP if I have any concerns, but I haven’t had to do that. My daughter Emily takes a photo of me every month, so I can see how much my body has changed. She used to call my bum my ‘bookshelf’. It’s gone now.
‘Without the operation, I don’t know what size I would have been by now’
October 2013 12st 5lb, size 14-16
I’m closer to a size 14 now because I’ve lost several inches. Elaine and I joined the gym two weeks ago. My operation has brought us closer as she has helped me learn how to eat post-surgery and we both feel better about ourselves. I used to be an apple but now I’m a pear, and it’s a thrill to be able to wear fitted clothes instead of my old baggy T-shirts and trousers.
December 2013 12st 2lb, size 14
I can walk into the gym with my head held high but there are some bits of my body that exercise can’t touch. My skin was stretched when I was bigger and it hasn’t snapped back so I’m having a tummy tuck in Poland next month, then saving for a breast reduction and to have some skin removed from my upper arms. Another problem is that surgery doesn’t remove the ‘head hunger’ that makes me want to eat when I’m not hungry. But without the operation, I don’t know what size I would have been by now.
I’m really positive about the experience. It was scary going abroad for surgery but I researched the hospital and the doctor, and I chose the procedure I felt would suit me best. I look at the portions being served in restaurants and I think, ‘How could anyone eat all that food?’ But I used to. I’m so glad that’s not my life any more.
“I would like to start with how easy the process was from the beginning. Angela looked after me and answered any questions I had, day or night. I paid my deposit, and Angela booked my flights, apartment and procedure – I had to do nothing. She even checked me in for my flight!”
Did you arrive OK? “On the day of my flight, everything went smoothly and I landed in Prague to be met by my driver, Paul, who was very nice. He took us to the clinic where I was met by troy. I was shown to my apartment, which was lovely, and given a welcome pack with a full itinerary for the following day.”
How did the operation itself go? “The day of the op, I was met downstairs by Troy and taken for pre-op tests. The clinic was clean and most of the staff spoke very good English. Professor Fried was amazing and he sat and answered all of my questions. He explained the procedure in detail, too. I was taken for my op, and when I woke up I felt OK – just a little sick, and I was given meds for this.”
“I felt amazing. A few days later I was discharged back to my apartment, where I stayed until my driver picked me up and drove me back to the airport. Oh – I forgot to add that I was given a phone call every day by Angela to see how I was… Secret Surgery have been brilliant, and I will be coming back for plastics! Thanks Angela!”
What a positive story! We’re always up for hearing more Secret Surgery stories, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with your experiences!
Angela Chouaib – founder and MD at Secret Surgery – is here today to share her weight loss surgery secrets. It’s easy to think that weight loss surgery is about sitting back and letting science do all the work, but that’s not true; after weight loss surgery, it’s important to remember that it’s up to you to develop the habits and behaviours that are going to last the rest of your life.
“Remember that your weight loss surgery isn’t going to do the work by itself. Think of your surgery as a tool, or a stepping stone, which is going to help you get to where you want to be. It isn’t a magical fix.” It might seem like a magical fix when you’re losing pounds and pounds every week at first, but as your weight drops, you’ll find it harder and harder to lose that extra weight, and this is when good diet and exercise will matter.
“It’s just not possible to eat whatever you want and lose weight. Weight loss surgery doesn’t alter your metabolism, so if you’re eating the same foods you were before your surgery, you aren’t making the most of it.” Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial; in the later stages of your weight loss, you’ll only find the pounds dropping off if you’re still eating well and staying active. Don’t let yourself down by falling into old habits.
“Ease yourself slowly into exercise after the surgery. Rest up for six weeks, and then start with light activities like walking and gentle swimming. Exercise will help you to stay toned while the pounds are dropping off.” Losing a lot of weight quickly can be quite a shock to your body, so it’s important to keep your muscles healthy by maintaining a good weekly fitness regime. It doesn’t have to be vigorous, and you shouldn’t start before you feel ready to – but it’s something to factor in after your recovery.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that it’s you who’s in control after weight loss surgery. If you stop losing weight, don’t assume that something ‘isn’t working’ – look at your diet, and think about how it can be improved. It’s not just what you eat, but how much; and you’re the only person who can affect this. Good luck!
After going gastric surgery, there’ll be no doubt about the fact that you’ll be keen to stay fit and healthy with a gentle exercise regime. You shouldn’t do any rigorous exercise for about six weeks after your surgery, but after that you’re good to go. Here are our top tips on how to exercise safely after surgery.
1. Start exercising before your surgery. This will help you to become more flexible and prepare your body for more intense activity after surgery, and it’ll also help with any required pre-surgery weight loss.
2. Start slow. Begin with walking in short increments. This is a great way to ease yourself into exercising. You’ll begin to tone your muscles, which will make future exercised much easier.
3. Talk to your doctor before exercising after your surgery. Your surgeon will be able to tell you when you’re ready to increase your activity level and will let you know about any specific risks that you need to consider.
4. Do 5-15 minutes of cardio exercise before strength training. Strength training is, ultimately, what will help you to increase your muscle mass, but it’s always a good idea to warm your body up with a short cardio workout.
5. Start off with 1 or 2 sets of 6-15 repetitions. You’ll be able to do more as you get stronger and build up your endurance.
6. Don’t overdo it with the weights. Use enough weight so that you can feel some resistance, but don’t strain yourself.
7. Keep a diary of your workouts. Keep track of how much you’re lifting and how many repetitions you’re able to do. As exercising becomes easier, you can begin to add weight and repetitions. A diary will help you to monitor your progress.
Exercise is just one component of your overall weight loss plan. The changes you’ll be making to your diet after gastric bypass surgery will have a huge impact on your weight loss, so don’t feel compelled to overwork your body! What’s most important is that you look after yourself after surgery.
We’ve got another happy patient here today to tell us all about her Secret Surgery story. “To say I was sceptical about surgery abroad would be an understatement. I was very much against it and believed that people who went for surgery abroad were sent to filthy ‘back street’ clinics and operated on by unlicensed surgeons.”
What changed your mind? “It soon became clear to me from speaking to Angela in great detail and from research I had done myself that this certainly wasn’t the case when booking with Secret Surgery. If anything, the facilities that Angela books for her patients are very modern, clean and well-equipped with the most advanced medical equipment. The surgeons based at these facilities are also considered some of the most experienced in their fields. With this in mind, I was very confident about booking my gastric wrap (plication) surgery in Prague with Secret Surgery.”
And how was your stay there? “When I arrived at my luxury apartment I was a little disappointed that I did not have some of the items that were specified in the apartment description but with one call to Angela she was on the case and it wasn’t long before a very apologetic member of hotel staff was delivering me a kettle for my soups along with a DVD player and a selection of English films! This was very nice, as I was going to be spending my recovery time in the apartment too.”
That’s great! Did you feel safe before your surgery, then? “Well, the morning of my surgery I had the pleasure of meeting my surgeon, Professor Fried. The surgery brief was very important and he was happy to answer any questions or concerns that we had. He really put us at ease and was friendly and approachable. Following the surgery, he visited all his patients on a daily basis and had a genuine interest in our recovery.”
Did everything go OK? “I experienced a minor complication with my surgery and had a small bleed. I was placed in a priority room next to the nurses’ station and I was checked on every hour for the first 24 hours, post operatively, to have observations done. The pre-op and post-op checks were very thorough, and I felt well looked after throughout my stay in the clinic. I was also contacted frequently by Angela during this time and she kept a close eye on my recovery including speaking to the clinic staff to ensure I was OK.”
Fantastic. Anything else since you arrived home? “Upon returning to the UK following my surgery, I have had at least weekly contact from Angela and Jane, my dietary advisor, to check on my progress and offer advice with any queries or concerns I may have. The service I have experienced through Secret Surgery is first class and I have recommended this service to many other people already, and will continue to do so!”
“I look forward to my next trip abroad with Secret Surgery for the cosmetic surgery I would like when I reach my target weight. Thanks again Angela, you have been a trusted advisor and, more than that, you have become a good friend to me.”
That’s wonderful to hear! We’re always so pleased to read positive stories from our patients, and it makes everything we do that little bit more worthwhile.
I couldn’t list the number of diets I’ve been on with all ten of my fingers, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve eaten foods that are supposed to aid metabolism that are best left in the far corners of South American jungles, and I’ve dealt with the consequences – which, in my experience, have been more likely to be found in the bathroom than coming off my waistline.
If you’ve had experiences like this, it’s really no surprise if you’re considering weight loss surgery. For far too long the public have stigmatised the idea of weight loss surgery as something for people too lazy and demotivated to lose the weight themselves, naturally. Well, it really is high-time this changed.
Weight loss surgery isn’t something anyone takes lightly. How could it be? Going under the knife is daunting for anyone. But, just as it’s seen as necessary when a very ill patient needs an operation at a hospital, there comes a point, after years of unsuccessful dieting, that weight loss surgery seems to be the only way.
The science behind diets and calorie counting is hardly exact; you don’t need to look at more than a few web pages to see that scientists disagree about how exactly one should go about losing weight on an almost weekly basis. Unfortunately, no one likes to say it, but it’s probably the truth: some people just can’t lose weight the way other people do.
We’ve tried and tried, and yet the pounds don’t drop off. Should we have to suffer the low self-esteem and health problems that come with excess weight, just because of unfortunate biology?
Angela Chouaib, MD and founder at Secret Surgery Ltd., says that “Weight loss surgery really is for those in the last chance saloon; it’s a life-saving operation that should be considered just as valuable as heart surgery. Our patients live longer, happier lives because of these surgeries – and that’s what’s important.”
The beggining of the rest of my life…... Please read this wonderful blog from Stephi Harris a Gastric Wrap Patient of Secret Surgery…